The State of Robotics in 2018: The Time Is Now

The State of Robotics in 2018: The Time Is Now

Worldwide spending on robotics in 2018 is set to reach $103bn, a dramatic 22.1% increase on 2017, according to market intelligence experts, IDC. This impressive figure is set to double by 2021, with an overall CAGR of over 25%. The robotics industry is thriving; now is the time to invest.

IDC’s findings also state that Robotics spending will account for a huge 90% of all spending through the 2017-2021 forecast. Industrial robots lead the way, closely followed by service robots, and consumer robots in third place.

Service robots are beginning to come of age, after decades of hard work, research and development. In this growth phase, new emergent technologies have been increasingly layered into service robots. They are now proving significant value as the technology matures,, cost comes down and the word welcomes robots in their businesses and homes.

We reported in July 2017 that the Robotics boom, whilst progressing fast, is still at an early enough stage for investment in Robotics to be a lucrative venture. The same holds true as we enter 2018, as IDC’s figures clearly demonstrate. The growth over the last twelve months is substantial and projections look even more promising.

In the last year, we have seen particularly strong innovations in the AI capabilities of service robots, unsurprising given the parallel growth in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Artificial intelligence is, of course, on an unstoppable upward trajectory. The knock-on effect on service Robotics is substantial.

Whilst industrial and manufacturing robots continue to dominate the sector, there is less requirement for these machines to demonstrate sophisticated AI. By comparison, integration with artificial intelligence widens the applications of service robots on both B2B and customer service side.

In the past, high cost has meant that only large companies (mostly automotive and industrial) have had access to the power of robotics. As costs reduce, as they are now doing, the doors have been opened for more SMEs to reap the ROI benefits that robots offer. That’s not to say that there’s not financial outlay required for adoption, rather that the gap between adoption and ROI realisation is closing. The complementary role that service robots play, for example, contributes to increased productivity and thus time-efficiency, hastening time to ROI.

Consumer attitudes to robots are fast changing. In spite of sensationalist reports that ‘robots will steal jobs’ over the last year, the public are quickly becoming wise to the fact that this is far from the case. Human roles are not only safe, but are complemented by robots taking over repetitive, menial tasks. Human workers are thus assigned challenging and creative tasks which will have a positive effect on job satisfaction, as well as aforementioned productivity, in many areas.

It is, however, not only manual tasks that can now be undertaken by service robots. As we have mentioned, integration with AI and machine learning systems mean that they are also able to analyse and practically use data. In customer-facing roles, such as retail, this means that the ability for robots to perform meaningful sales assistant roles is enhanced.

Robots in customer-facing roles represent a promising gateway to domestic adoption. In domestic settings, the popularity of robot vacuums and smart home devices skyrocketed in 2017. This growth is, nonetheless, the tip of the iceberg. As the public are increasingly exposed to robots in service roles, in the media, and the domestic market offering grows, so too will adoption. It’s highly likely that, within the next five years, robots will be so ubiquitous, we will wonder how we ever lived without them.